COVID-19 & the NSW Courts
District Court of New South Wales
29 July 2021
The temporary suspension of new jury trials in the following Courts will continue until 28 August 2021:
- The Downing Centre
- John Maddison Tower
Prioritising hearings – bringing criminal matters forward where the defendant is in custody
Practitioners are encouraged to notify the Court of:
- Sentence hearings requiring priority, particularly those defendants whose time on remand is approaching the period likely to be served on sentence; and
- Local Court appeals where the appellant has been sentenced to a custodial sentence.
Where both the prosecution and defendant are ready to take an earlier hearing date and the hearing may proceed by use of a Virtual Court room, the Court may prioritise the hearing.
NEW SOUTH WALES
28 July 2021
CHIEF MAGISTRATE’S MEMORANDUM NO. 19 COVID-19
Amended and extended to Friday 27 August 2021.
This Memorandum applies to the following Local Courts in addition to memorandum 17 and replaces memorandum 18:
- Albion Park
- Mount Druitt
- Port Kembla
- Central Sydney
- Downing Centre
In the event of any inconsistency this memo prevails in the above locations.
Memorandum 17 continues to apply to all other Local Courts in New South Wales.
Defended Hearings (ie matters requiring witnesses to give evidence)
All defended hearings that require a witness to give evidence at the above Local Courts listed between Monday 28 June 2021 and Friday 27 August 2021 will no longer proceed. Participants in those proceedings are not required to attend court. Those matters will remain listed for mention on the date they are currently set for the hearing to allow a new hearing date to be arranged.
Parties are not required to attend in person, however must notify the court via email of the status of the proceedings prior to 3.00pm on the day be prior to the listing and provide all unavailable dates.
Upon application to the Court of listing and with the consent of all parties and where administrative arrangements allow, hearings that do not require the attendance of any witness may proceed.
Definition: A defended hearing is a matter in which witnesses are required to give evidence. NB Matters listed for applications, interlocutory proceedings, submissions and/or decision may remain listed and proceed wherever possible.
Small Claims Hearings
Small claims hearings will remain listed and wherever possible will proceed via telephone. Parties must provide all statements via email no later than three days prior to the hearing. If parties object to the hearing being conducted via telephone they should notify the court as soon as possible.
Those small claims hearing that are unable to be conducted via telephone will be adjourned for mention and/or hearing on date after 27 August 2021.
Matters Listed for Sentence
Wherever possible these matters will proceed.
If a participant is prevented from attending court contact must be made with the court to seek:
- an appearance in writing;
- attendance by alternate means (Telephone or AVL); or
- to have the proceedings adjourned
Contact must be made with the court no later than 3.00pm the day prior to the listing.
Please note that if the defendant is on bail and a sentence assessment report has been requested, the court will require the attendance of the defendant and his/her legal representative in person.
Matters Listed for Mention
Written notices of pleadings will continue to be accepted electronically including email. Participants may seek to appear in writing (email), via telephone or AVL.
For all listings of a procedural nature only the court’s preferred option is to accept appearances in writing (e-mail).
Defendants in Custody
Wherever possible all defendants in custody should appear via Audio Visual Link.
Masks are now required in the above courts.
Please note the public health order does allow for the following exceptions (amongst others):
- A person may remove a fitted face covering in the following circumstance, the person is at work and the nature of the person’s work means clear enunciation or visibility of the person’s mouth is essential.
- A person working alone in an indoor area like an office (or chambers) a mask is not required, until another person enters the area.
Any applicable exceptions are to be managed by the presiding magistrate.
Note: Nothing in the memorandum prevents an application by a party or legal representative, for consideration of an appearance by audio or audio visual link. However any request will be subject the availability of such technology and suitability of the proceedings being dealt with in this manner.
Nothing in the arrangements set out above prevents a physical appearance before the court, except by a defendant in custody.
Update on COVID-19 & The Courts
On 1 July 2020, The Chief Magistrate issued a new memorandum replacing all previously issued memorandums. It outlines further arrangements that will take effect on and from 3 August 2020.
Should I attend court in person?
Currently, there are a number of court appearances you are not required to attend if you are legally represented. We can advise you on an ongoing basis whether you are required to attend court.
They are now allowing people that are not involved in legal proceedings to attend court. Please note that they may not let in large groups of people. If you wish to have family or friends attend, it would be best to keep it to one or two people. If you are told that you are required to attend court, you must not attend if you:
- have traveled and returned from overseas in the past 14 days
- have had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- you are feeling unwell.
If any of the above apply to you, we can liaison with the Court to organise appropriate arrangements for your matter to proceed.
What is happening with matters?
Each Local Court will be identifying matters that were abandoned due to Covid-19. They will be listed for a Status Mention. This mention is to assess where the matters are up to and whether they are ready to proceed to a hearing. You will only need to appear in person at a Status Mention if you are self-represented or we have been unable to obtain complete instruction in your matter.
If a person wishes to plead guilty at a Status Mention, then the matter will proceed to finalise the matter that day.
When will my matter likely be listed for a hearing?
Matters that have already been listed for a defended hearing after 31 July 2020, will remain. This is due to the administrative complications that may arise by adjourning those matters. Matters that had their hearing dates abandoned during the period of 23 March and 31 July 2020, will be listed between August – October when the court’s diary will accommodate the hearing.
However, In the larger courts, there will be no defended hearing listed in October. This is to accommodate the listing of matters that occur during August – October. These Courts include:
Metropolitan Locations: Sutherland, Campbelltown, Penrith, Mt. Druitt, Blacktown, Parramatta, Hornsby, Manly, Waverley, Bankstown, Newtown, Burwood, Fairfield, Central Court, Downing Centre.
Regional locations: Wollongong, Newcastle.
What can be dealt with via email or in writing?
Due to not being able to attend, the Courts are allowing a lot more to be dealt with via email. These include things such as:
- Entering pleas
- Seeking adjournments
- Reply to briefs
- Simple mentions
We at Fourtree Lawyers will work with you to obtain all the necessary information required to make sure that nothing is missing in the correspondence to the courts via electronic means.
What District Court matters will be adjourned?
On the 16 March 2020, any new jury trials were temporarily suspended. In mid-June, Sydney District Court (Downing Centre), Parramatta District Court and Newcastle District Court. Will recommence jury trials on a limited basis.
How will bail be determined?
From 22 June 2020, the measured put in place to have a centralised bail court will cease. Bail will revert back to being dealt with in the originating court.
How are pleas entered?
Pleas are now entered electronically or in person through the Court. Here at Fourtree Lawyers, we will liaise with the Registry and the prosecution to make sure your matter is dealt with as soon as possible. For simple matters, we may be able to have your matter dealt with when a plea is entered.
How are AVO’s being dealt with?
Where an ADVO has proceedings with a related CAN, proceedings will be adjourned to the same date as the CAN and continue to travel together as per usual practice. Where ADVO application is without a CAN, proceedings will be adjourned for mention for no less than 3 months.
However, provisional orders can still be made by the police. Amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 now allow the police to provide for provisional orders to be listed up to 6 months from the date the order is made.
We are here to help
Fourtree Lawyers can explain and guide you through this confusing and unprecedented time and work with you to minimise the legal ramifications of your offence.
Instructing a lawyer to act on your behalf will ensure you fully understand your position and your options and will assist you in getting the best possible results for your particular case.
Contact our Newcastle and Central Coast Lawyers on 1300 529 444 as soon as possible. The earlier we can start building a strong case for you, the higher your chance of getting a good outcome.